Claudia Garcia-Des Lauriers

Getting to know our faculty

I am an archeologist and an art historian. Researching the past is an incredible amount of fun. When most people imagine the career of an archeologist, they think of the adventures of Lara Croft or Indiana Jones. While there are some aspects of archaeology that are adventuresome, much of what we do is rigorous field and lab work that requires incredible focus. I work in Mesoamerica trying to understand ancient cultures that flourished in this region before European contact. I am interested in understanding how cultures have endured incredible change over time and what it reveals about the incredible resilience of the people in the past.

When I practice archeology, I am not only interested in learning about the ancient people, I also make sure that my work is embedded within the living community. It is important to me that the community feel able to engage with me so that through our conversations everyone is learning and contributing to the production of this knowledge. We know history and tradition make an impact on our society. What we choose to preserve, what we choose to destroy, what we actively destroy, or what we let nature take back are all complicated and sometimes highly politically charged choices. Understanding history can be very empowering.

Archaeology is also a form of scientific inquiry that can give voice to people that have not been effectively represented in history. For example, the voices of slaves, immigrants, the poor, women, children and many others who are marginalized can be accessed through household archaeology.   Looking at the remains of everyday activities can help us gain an understanding of how people resisted power, raised families, and lived complex lives.  The material record gives us a little bit more of an understanding of people’s resilience in the past that can serve as a great model for how to cope with complex changes in our contemporary world.

What led you on this path?

I fell into it in college. I loved ancient history and art history and my then boyfriend, now husband was an archaeologist.  I began to learn more about the discipline and discovered that I could study the past from both an art historical and archaeological perspective. I use archaeology as another tool in my research on ancient Mexico and Central America.

What is something that you have been meaning to try?

Sky Diving. I don’t like to fly, and I don’t like to take too many risks. I would wait until my son is 18 at least. It is one of those things that you have to do. It is complete sensory overload and pushes one to the edge of one’s fears. I am interested in what I might learn from this experience, and it would just be really cool.

Who is a person living or deceased you wish you could meet?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or other people like him that lived in these very critical moments in history. It would be interesting to talk with him about his vision, and to understand how he found his way, and how he lead and inspired people.